Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Fourth Week

It’s the end of the fourth week, and now we’re really finding our groove! After lamenting to a friend (and former homeschooler) about my daughter’s lack of internal motivation I was told that, if I was patient, Lillia would become the student I want her to be. I think my friend was on to something, because this week Lillia really stepped it up, in terms of cooperativeness, quality of work, and enthusiasm. I don’t think we had a single meltdown all week.

Even though she struggled to master cursive “b” she persisted until she got it right (there was a bit of resistance, but nothing like a temper tantrum). She seems to think that my criticizing her work is a reflection of how I feel about her, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth! However, when I made her erase the ones that came out poorly, then showed her what was wrong, she was able to do a much better job (and, I think, was secretly proud of herself).

As her teacher, I have to be objective, and be willing to point out her mistakes, even while the mom in me wants to coddle her and tell her that her work is perfect every time. How do you deal with the parent/teacher dichotomy?

Highlights from this week:

Reading: We’re still working on Anooka’s Answer, by Marjorie Cowley. This is a story about a girl living in Europe during the last glacial maximum (ice age). She discovers a hidden talent for creating figurines from clay, but this practice is prohibited for women in her tribe. Lillia seems to like it.

Writing: We didn’t do any formal writing this week, as I am still trying to choose which program to use. I have four to choose from, and they are all very different. I plan to decide over the weekend, and start a formal writing program on Monday. We are still doing our drop-down webs for history.

Spelling: We have been working our way through McGuffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book. I will have her do little sections daily until we get to a point where she gets a certain number wrong (maybe 3 or 4?), and then we will actually do a formal study session. So far, the words are so easy that she hasn’t gotten any wrong, but the words do get harder. My husband and I had a great time quizzing each other on the later lessons.

History: We just finished our first history “spine,” Voyages Through Time: The Beginning, by Peter Ackroyd. Overall, I liked this book. It did a nice job of covering the Earth’s history from the Big Bang through the Ice Age. There were moments when the writing was almost poetic, but then times where it was quite dry. I wish he had written more consistently in the “narrative” voice, instead of trying to be so scientific. Also, the illustrations were TERRIBLE! Now, this is purely based on my opinion, and what I look for in an illustrated children’s book. What I really want is beautifully rendered watercolor illustrations. I detest computer generated graphics, which is what was used for this book. I actually didn’t really show the pictures to Lillia because they are so uninspiring. Would I use it again? Maybe. But, I would probably just use Jennifer Morgan’s series, which cover roughly the same material, but are so eloquently written and beautifully illustrated. The only reason why I didn’t use them is because Lillia has already read them many times.

Mathematics: We’re still in Life of Fred: Butterflies, but I have ordered the next book since we are almost done with this one already! I cannot praise this series enough. Lillia loves it, and even I have learned a lot from it. This week, we covered the concepts of ordinal and cardinal numbers, and orthogonal (ex: perpendicular) lines. I love that she is learning all of these concepts in such an organic way, through Fred’s life and adventures. All of the math that she learns makes complete sense in the context of the story. It’s never arbitrary. Seriously, this is an amazing math curriculum.

Science: I decided to switch gears and just spend this year doing a combination of life science and astronomy. We are reading the Burgess Bird Book for Children and recording what we learn about each bird in our science journal. This week we learned about the wren and the English sparrow. I just received my astronomy curriculum from Memoria Press this afternoon. I haven’t had a chance to really look it over, but I will certainly write more about it in the future.

On a side note, Lillia is thrilled because she has been cast as an angel in this year’s Nutcracker performance at Moco. She’s going to be busy with two dance classes plus the Nutracker repertory class, but she seems to be having fun. And, unlike last year, she isn’t exhausted in the afternoon when it’s time for practice. Getting the amount of sleep she needs, eating when she is hungry, and having time to relax during the day allow Lillia to be successful in ways she couldn’t be before (when she was sleep deprived, starving, and overstimulated at school).

Hope you all had a great week, too!

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The Third Week

Well, this was a week where we didn’t get much done. And, I’m okay with that.

Monday, Lillia climbed Mt. Monadnock with my mom (lots of pics at the end of this post).

Tuesday, she woke up with a terrible sore throat, so we shelved school for the day, and she rested.

Wednesday, same deal.

Finally, on Thursday she was feeling better, so we took up our history, math, and independent reading work. She tried to learn the cursive letter “D,” but that ended in tears.

Friday was mostly normal. The baby is now sick (poor thing!), so that is taking up a lot of my time, but we were able to do some really good work in our history book. Lillia is now illustrating her drop-down webs without my even suggesting it (we were printing out pictures from the internet). I am so impressed with her initiative. We also did our math work (we’re now on Life of Fred: Butterflies, and still loving it!), and then she watched a one hour NOVA documentary called “Evolution: Great Transformations.” (I found it on YouTube.) She really enjoyed it.

I love our cursive curriculum, but I think we need to do a lot more practice with each letter. I purchased New American Cursive from Memoria Press, to see if it might be useful as a supplement (also, I love the meerkat!). We haven’t been working much on science because I am trying to figure out what I want to do — we may do the Thornton Burgess books, and an astronomy book I ordered from Memoria. I will write about that more later, after my thoughts have had a chance to coalesce.

I’d love to hear from other homeschoolers regarding how you deal with “sick days.” Obviously, she could have done her work in bed, but it seemed cruel. I know when I’m sick my head is all foggy, so probably not much good would come of trying to think about anything, but maybe that’s just a lame excuse…

Pictures from the hike (she was pretending to be a wolf the whole time — check out the “paws”):

Mt Monadnock 011

Mt Monadnock 014

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Mt Monadnock 025

Mt Monadnock 041

Mt Monadnock 056

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Mt Monadnock 064

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Mt Monadnock 063

So proud of her for making it to the summit! I wish I could have been there.


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The Second Week

Our second week (and first full week) of homeschooling is complete! So, what did Lillia do this week?

— She learned about the different types of clouds, and how to identify them.
— She learned about number sets from our math book, Life of Fred: Apples by Stanley Schmidt (highly recommend!). Can you think of a set with seven numbers in it? {The days of the week}!
— She studied world history from the Precambrian through the Triassic using her history book, Voyages Through Time: The Beginning by Peter Ackroyd.
— She learned how to make and use drop-down webs to organize what she learned in history.
— She learned how to make the letters A, E, I, O, U, Y, B, & C in cursive!
— She learned what a sentence is, and how to identify one of its parts (that of which we speak — the subject).
— She reviewed the concepts of latitude and longitude, and started plotting hominid fossils on a map using coordinates.
— She finished her first literature book, Children of Time by Anne Weaver, and used two column notes to help her remember all of the different characters.
— She participated in many extracurricular activities, including Phys Ed and Art at the school, and Hip Hop and Ballet at Moco!
— And, she had lots of time to play!

This afternoon, Lillia spent a couple of hours creating character studies for some wolves from her imaginary city. She typed up all the pages by herself, and then she used Photoshop to create illustrations for them!


All in all, this week went really well. Looking back at her list of accomplishments, I feel pretty good about homeschooling! There were a few moments where things were difficult, but each of those moments offered valuable insight into how Lillia learns, and what types of activities interest her/bore her/stress her out. I feel like it will probably take a couple of months for me to really figure out what I’m doing, but there is marked improvement just since last week.

One thing I noticed is that we don’t really follow a schedule. I had originally planned to do things in twenty-minute increments, but that has gone completely out the window. We don’t really follow a particular order, either. Every day is different. It certainly keeps us from getting bored. I’m curious how others deal with the schedule issue, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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The First Week

Phew! It’s Friday afternoon, and we have officially finished our first week of homeschooling. And, what a week it was! I have read that, when it comes to homeschooling, kids often teach their parents more than the other way around. After the week we’ve had, I couldn’t possibly agree more. But, the things I have learned were so valuable, and I know they will really shape our homeschooling journey in the months to come.

First of all, I learned that all of my agonizing over curriculum design and planning was, though not entirely pointless, a fairly big waste of time. Our school day looks very different in real life than it does on paper! Sometimes there’s a cranky baby. Sometimes we’re inexplicably starving an hour after breakfast and need a break. With one car, we’re on the road more than I thought we would be. And, Lillia’s extracurricular classes at the school use up the entire morning twice a week.

But, this is good for me! I hate ambiguity — I need to know what’s going to happen. This is a real exercise in persisting despite not knowing, and I think that will have long-term benefits for me.

I also learned that my daughter HATES to write. I didn’t know this! That might surprise some people, but how would I know? The problem is not her writing skills. In fact, she’s actually a very good writer (most likely because she is also a very good reader). However, my plan to have her write daily in a literature journal has been tossed out. The first attempt ended in tears, the second attempt ended in laying on the ground moaning, and I didn’t even try a third time. I’m not homeschooling her to torture her. But, I am homeschooling her because her teachers and guidance counselors were not able to help her deal with her debilitating perfectionism, and it has become a real obstacle to her academic success. Writing seems to be where her perfectionism manifests itself in the homeschooling environment. I’m going to try and separate the literature study from the writing, and see if that helps. I found a program called WriteShop for “reluctant writers,” which I think describes my daughter perfectly. Writing isn’t always fun, but it shouldn’t be torture, either!

Once the pressure was off, she wrote extemporaneously about an imaginary place she created called “Miriloo – City of the Wolves.” She wrote an entire page! The next day I typed it for her, and she created a map of Miriloo, complete with a legend/key (during which time we got to cover some Geography stuff), and then the following day she created a travel brochure for her imaginary land. All in all, a great project that was mostly child-directed and completely unplanned.

wh miriloo

Here’s what else we accomplished:

Independent Reading!

wh reading

Discovering the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere using an apple!

wh apple experiment

Writing in her science journal!

wh science journal

Seeing how long it takes for a drop of water to evaporate!

wh evaporation experiment

Re-creating the Water Cycle!

wh condensation experiment

And, much more!

After a terrible start, most of the week went smoothly. I was temporarily paralyzed with fear that we should start with US History instead of Ancient, but in the end it probably doesn’t matter. There are arguments from both sides, and both seem equally valid. Since I’ve already bought many Ancient History books, I figure we should just stay the course. I may write more about this later, and I’m open to feedback on this issue!

I’m looking forward to next week!

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